Microsoft this week announced a major milestone for its Live@edu program, which provides free, co-branded, cloud-hosted email, calendaring, document sharing, and communications functionality to educational institutions. Currently in the middle of a transition to Office 365, Live@edu now has are now over 22 million users, Microsoft says.

"Live@edu is the most widely used cloud productivity service for education," Microsoft vice president Anthony Salcito wrote in a blog post. "More than 27,000 new people signing up every day."

According to Salcito, Live@edu is popular around the world, with new schools added in the past year including Southern State Community College in Ohio, New Mexico State, Florida State, University of Colorado at Boulder; Kings College London and Royal National College for the Blind, located in the United Kingdom; the Bahrain Ministry of Education and the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education in the Middle East.

The big news here, of course, is the switchover to Office 365, Microsoft's new cloud computing productivity platform. And getting students used to the power of hosted Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync makes a lot of sense strategically for Microsoft.

"Office 365 for education will include everything available in Office 365 for enterprises, helping teachers save time and manage their curricula while giving students access to tools that make learning more inspiring, relevant and collaborative," Salcito writes. "Schools can benefit from Exchange Online today by signing up for Live@edu. Microsoft is also onboarding qualified education customers to Office 365 in order to take advantage of Exchange Online and Lync Online. We will add SharePoint Online capabilities in 2012 when Office 365 for education is broadly available."